Knots in My Stomach

Andrew N. Bell

Publisher: Balboa Press Pages: 234 Price: (paperback) $18.24 ISBN: 9781982283278 Reviewed: August, 2021 Author Website: Visit »

Andrew N. Bell’s memoir shares his journey of a life governed by crippling anxiety.

For as long as he can remember, Bell has been plagued by anxiety he describes as “a horrifying wave of terror where the future is too frightening to bear.” His UK childhood home life is cold, with little demonstrable love from his mother. At school, his short stature, freckles, curly ginger hair and big ears earn him bullying, but he finds a circle of friends.

He survives often harsh life at home and at boarding school, with its sadistic teachers, to create a successful career at Her Majesty’s Customs & Excise, recording measurements of goods including alcohol, Indian jewelry and imported frozen and canned food. In one instance, he mistakenly uncorks a hot vessel of sugar and is flooded with scalding caramel that coats his best suit and sticks his shoes to the floor.

He is relocated often but eventually gains a management position. Along the way, he marries and has a family. Once retired, he spends winters in the U.S., where he enjoys the social scene and relaxed lifestyle, but the anxiety – sometimes full-out panic attacks that send him to the hospital – persists.

This tale is about battling anxiety. While Bell doesn’t offer extensive advice on dealing with the affliction, he sprinkles his account with doctors’ treatments, his personal efforts and what he’s learned along the way.

It’s also a charming story of a simple but interesting life told with courage, humor and an observer’s eye for detail. The family car is “a lovely old Rover 90, dark green with a walnut dash and ‘overdrive.’ Driving it felt like piloting an airliner.” He still feels that “every minute of every day [he is] trapped in a madhouse, cut off from the world,” yet he perseveres with a dogged sense of hope.

This evocative memoir will engage readers who enjoy color, nostalgia and an unflinching look at this common affliction.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

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